Global MPA map

The Marine Protection Atlas

integrates science-based assessments that measure progress toward protecting 30% of the global ocean in fully and highly protected areas by 2030.

of the ocean
is fully or highly protected according to The MPA Guide
of the ocean
is protected according to WDPA / ProtectedPlanet

New Report: Governments Falling Short on Promises of Effective Biodiversity Protection

Ocean protection quality is lagging behind quantity: Applying a scientific framework to assess real marine protected area progress against the 30 by 30 target

This new analysis* of the world's largest 100 marine protected areas (MPAs) published in May 2024 in Conservation Letters suggests that governments are falling short on delivering the promise of effective biodiversity protection due to slow implementation of management strategies and failure to restrict the most impactful activities:

  • Only one-third of the area designated within these MPAs provides a level of protection that is likely to yield meaningful conservation benefits.
  • One-quarter of the area within these MPAs is not yet implemented
  • Over one-third of the area within these MPAs allows industrial or other highly impactful activities
  • Most of the large, fully and highly protected areas are in isolated overseas territories

Learn more about the analysis and explore the policy recommendations here.

*MPA assessments in the publication were conducted in February 2023. The assessments currently available here may reflect more recent changes to their status.

The Marine Protection Atlas (MPAtlas) is building a comprehensive global database of marine protection to identify, track, and advocate for fully and highly protected areas.

MPAtlas uses The MPA Guide's science-based framework to identify marine protected areas Stage of Establishment and Level of Protection, which are linked to expected conservation outcomes. MPAtlas shows how much of the ocean is currently fully or highly protected, highlights where MPAs are not yet implemented on the water, and much more. By focusing on the quality, in addition to the quantity, of marine protection, MPAtlas supports international progress toward effective marine conservation.

The MPAtlas assessment database is continually growing and will be regularly updated when new assessments are available. For visualization and data analysis, our assessment data is linked to geospatial boundaries from the World Database on Protected Areas and other sources. The dataset does not contain boundaries for all global MPAs, only those that have been assessed.

The MPA Guide: a framework to achieve global goals for the ocean

The MPA Guide is a groundbreaking science-driven, policy-relevant framework to categorize marine protected areas and link their outcomes for nature and people.


We use science-based frameworks to assess the Stage of Establishment and Level of Protection of MPAs across the globe, creating quality metrics that supplement the official World Database on Protected Areas reporting.

Learn more about how MPAtlas compliments WDPA reporting


We partner with conservation organizations, scientists and governments to apply science-based frameworks to MPAs globally

Learn more about how you can contribute to our database


We use our data to track and visualize fully and highly protected MPAs around the world. We contribute our data to conservation research as well as produce our own global and regional reports on MPA progress.

View our papers and reports

MPA Guide assessment of marine protection

The MPA Guide provides a scientific framework for categorizing MPAs using consistent criteria based on establishment stage and protection levels that reflect the conservation benefits they provide. It is intended to motivate more meaningful protection and can be used by governments and MPA planners to better understand how the regulations of their MPAs relate to conservation outcomes. Learn more.


of global ocean area has been assessed using The MPA Guide

Percent of global ocean by MPA Guide protection status:
area (km2)
% of total marine area
Implemented or actively managed:
Fully Protected
Highly Protected
Lightly Protected
< 1%
Minimally Protected / Incompatible
Unknown / To Be Determined
< 1%
Unknown / To Be Determined
Proposed / Committed:*
Proposed / Committed
Total Assessed:
Not Assessed
< 1%
*The WDPA does not report proposed or committed sites in their official numbers. For this reason, the total area assessed is likely to be larger than the area reported as protected by the WDPA.
Stage of Establishment
  • Actively Managed: Management of the area is ongoing with periodic review and changes made as needed to achieve conservation goals.
  • Implemented: MPA is acknowledged to be "in force" on the water with plans for management activated.
  • Designated: MPA is established / recognized through legal or traditional means, with defined boundaries and clearly stated goals and processes to define allowed uses and associated regulations or rules to control impacts.
  • Proposed / Committed: The intent to create an MPA is publicly and formally announced.
Level of Protection
  • Fully Protected: No extractive or destructive activities are allowed; all abatable impacts are minimized.
  • Highly Protected: Only light extractive activities are allowed, with all other abatable impacts minimized.
  • Lightly Protected: Some protection exists but moderate to significant extraction and impacts are allowed.
  • Minimally Protected / Incompatible: Extensive extraction and other impacts are allowed, but the site may provide some conservation benefit to the area.

Largest marine protected areas

of global marine protected area is in the 100 largest marine protected areas.
of the 100 largest marine protected areas is in implemented fully / highly protected areas.
of global marine protected area is in over 18,000 smaller marine protected areas.

Top 10 MPAs with the
largest Fully or Highly
protected area

Marine Protected Area (CCAMLR within the High Seas
1,931,766 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
Marine National Monument within United States
1,508,721 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
1,265,728 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
Marine Protected Area within Pitcairn
836,092 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
698,369 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
National Marine Sanctuary within Palau
477,148 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
465,845 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
Marine Park within Australia
445,315 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
443,571 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area
307,487 km2 in fully / highly protected marine area

Blue Parks

Blue Parks aim to unite a global ocean refuge system of effective MPAs that covers 30% of the ocean to safeguard marine biodiversity. The Blue Park Criteria are science-based standards for conservation effectiveness, which provide blueprints for effective MPAs and a framework for evaluating the biodiversity benefits of MPAs. By awarding MPAs that meet the Blue Park Criteria, the Blue Parks initiative incentivizes and accelerates effective marine protection.

Learn more about Blue Parks.


marine protected areas have received Blue Park Awards.

These areas cover roughly 11% of the total marine protected area in the world.

Blue Parks criteria:

Blue Parks criteria image
Blue Parks map

New Blue Parks in 2024

Three marine protected areas (MPAs) won prestigious Blue Park Awards for exceptional marine wildlife conservation at the 9th Our Ocean Conference in 2024. Tristan da Cunha (UK), Gitdisdzu Lugyeks Marine Protected Area (Kitasoo Xai'xais First Nation), and Siete Pecados Marine Park (Philippines) join a growing network of 30 awarded Blue Parks around the global ocean that have met the highest science-based standards for conservation effectiveness. The three new Blue Parks cover a total area of 757,403 square kilometers (292,435 sq. mi.). Their addition brings the Blue Park Network to a total of 3.5 million square kilometers (1,351,358 sq. mi) of ocean area effectively protected in the waters of 23 countries.

The Marine Protection Atlas is made possible through the generous support from:

Arcadia Fund logo
Dona Bertarelli Philanthropy logo
Oceans5 logo
Winslow Foundation logo
Packard Foundation logo

It was created by the Marine Conservation Institute in partnership with Astute Spruce, LLC.

Please support the work of the Marine Protection Atlas: the only comprehensive database that identifies and tracks fully and highly protected MPAs throughout the world.

Contact Uslast updated: 2024-07-16© 2024 Marine Conservation Institute